Interview: Tom Taylor on Writing “Star Wars” Comics

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Tom Taylor is a young Australian dramatist who’s just started writing comics in the past few years, but he’s already making a splash, writing The Authority and several indie graphic novels. American audiences probably know him best for his Star Wars comics, though; we talked to him about his upcoming plans for a galaxy far, far away.

TECHLAND: What was your first exposure to Star Wars?

TOM TAYLOR: A New Hope, I think I saw it when I was about three… which was kind of irresponsible of someone in my family. Still, it can’t have scarred me too much, right?

What do you remember about the first Star Wars-related stories you made up, back before you were doing it professionally?

I remember writing and drawing Star Wars stories in primary school. I also used to make up a lot of stories with my Star Wars toys in my bedroom and backyard. I could never hold onto the lightsabers, though. No doubt, when my tiny figures’ tiny hands were cut off in tiny rages by tiny Sith, they lost their lightsabers down deep (tiny) caverns. So, most of my original stories probably had titles like “Luke Skywalker and the colored matchstick held on by blu-tac.”

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You’ve written extensively for theater; are there aspects of Star Wars that are particularly theatrical (as opposed to The Authority or other comics you’ve worked on)?

For me, in theatre, text rules and dialogue is king. I am a huge fan of rhythmic dialogue, and I try to bring this to every comic I work on, be it The Authority, Rombies (A Roman zombies comic) or any of my Star Wars books.

But comics aren’t theatre. Comics are so much more, and Star Wars is beyond theatrical; it’s Space Opera. The emotions are big and the events are huge, which is no surprise as you have an entire galaxy to play in. You don’t want to waste your time in a galaxy far, far away on a small psycho-drama set in someone’s apartment.

What do you think of as the crucial elements of telling stories within the Star Wars universe–in terms of narrative, more than in terms of working with those particular characters and settings?

There are a number of tropes that we see time and time again in Star Wars, and they’re all very important. The coming of age story. The quest. Interactions with family (which is what I was thinking of when I began writing Blood Ties). These are all quintessential elements of Star Wars. Also, Star Wars is full of twists and revelations. When Darth Vader dropped that ‘Daddy-bomb’ to Luke, it was probably the most shocking revelation I’d ever seen in a film at that age. I’ve really carried this love of twists into Star Wars: Invasion. We’ve set up a lot already in this series and, for the most part, readers aren’t even suspicious yet… which is exactly how we like it.

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You’ve worked with Colin Wilson on a bunch of projects, Star Wars and otherwise; how did that collaboration start, and how does it tend to operate?

I blundered into an Internet forum looking for some good local illustrators to help me adapt some of my plays into comics. I was attacked by a few people, but Colin Wilson came to my defense (because Colin is a champion) and suggested we get together for a coffee. It turned out we lived about ten minutes from each other which, given the scarcity of Australian comics creators, is pretty insane. We met, we had coffee, and I tried to convince him to illustrate “The Example,” my most successful play to date. Colin said he didn’t have time, but he loved the script, and over the next few weeks, pages of “The Example” started appearing. That first cup of coffee has now become a constant stream of coffee and Colin is now one of my closest friends. We get together once or twice a week to drink too much coffee, go through pages, and have human contact aside from our families. And our first project together, “The Example,” is in comic stores through the Australian publisher, Gestalt Comics. We’ve just found out it’s sold out and going back for a second printing!

What’s been the most interesting creative challenge you’ve encountered writing within the structures of the Star Wars universe?

Probably the biggest creative challenge I’ve had writing Star Wars is feeling like I didn’t have a right to put words in the mouths of these beloved characters. I really wanted to write a story of Luke and Yoda on Dagobah, but I couldn’t bring myself to pitch it, due to the reverence I had for the characters. However, I did end up writing that story set on Dagobah: Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes. The book was well received, and my respect for the characters was spoken about in forums and reviews.

And I think it’s good to be scared, I think it’s good to be careful out of a genuine affection for the characters. As a fan, I want my creators to love the characters as much as I do.

Finally, what can you tell us about the Star Wars projects you’ve got in the works right now?

My next Star Wars Adventures graphic novella has just come out: The Will of Darth Vader. I had such a good time writing this story. I think it’s one of the most fun scripts I’ve written. A lot of humor balanced with awesome Vader-type-action and poignancy.

Star Wars: Invasion is flying along. “Rescues” is halfway through, and every member of the Galfridian family is about to change in the eyes of the reader. This is on top of the epic battle which Colin Wilson is just drawing the hell out of… it’s going to be a big few months for Invasion readers!

And of course, August sees the start of Star Wars: Blood Ties—a Tale of Jango and Boba Fett, featuring incredible fully-painted art by Chris Scalf, a multi-generational tale of the most infamous bounty hunters the Star Wars universe has ever seen. It’s about honor, redemption, legacies and building-sized, blood-thirsty monsters with a whole lot of teeth.